Pharmacy game changers

I recently wrote a blog called ‘Dispensing on the Titanic’. It was intended to be thought provoking with a heavy negative followed by some positives. If you haven’t read it, please do and see what type of Pharmacist you are.

I have had quite a few responses after posting the blog, from the 500 or so people who have read it. Here is how I have segregated the responses:

Ostrich. It is surprising how many Pharmacists believe that dispensing is their only USP. Without it they are lost. They feel that the profession should hang every element of the clinical service that they provide around the dispensing and supply function. You may think that the government pays Pharmacies for dispensing, but that would be foolish – they pay Pharmacy to hold back the cost of medicines – that has always been their objective and Pharmacists have been very good at it. Unfortunately the growth in the number of pharmacies has made this less economic and dispensing factories which could be ‘more economic’ than individual pharmacies are coming along. Unfortunately this still represents the core of the contract and the core income for pharmacies.

Heroic. I always agree with Pharmacists who say that their patients love them. They feel that the public will get out there and fight closures. In my opinion this is misguided. Many community pharmacies are small businesses. When things get tough they don’t try to drive revenue, they cut overheads and actually reduce services. The accountant worries about cash flow and the business stops functioning and goes into liquidation. The day to worry is when the ‘big boys’ sell off the unprofitable branches and they can’t find a buyer. And it has already happened. A community pharmacy is not an A&E – I have no evidence that a closing pharmacy can attract a midnight vigil of 1,000 local residents led by the local MP.

Progressive. I was stunned by just one pharmacist who asked ‘so what are the drivers and levers for change’. The question was spot on and I have to say that it came from a relatively young pharmacist (although most of you are young compared to me now). The Pharmacy profession has been ‘at the crossroads’ for so many years that I almost feel sick when another leader uses the term. The RPS commission report was called ‘Now or Never’ – it could have been called ‘broken down at the crossroads’ – or my preference ‘FFS’.

There is a small number of Pharmacists who seen to recognise that we must do something bold and now. This comment stood out amongst a number of suggestions – some a bit wild and wacky and some very sensible and reasonable. I wouldn’t throw any of them away – we must be radical to make things happen. It might be the time for some ‘blue sky’ or ‘out of the box’ thinking. I am up for that as long as it creates some forward movement.

The Future. The future is what the profession makes it. The question that I leave you with is what are the levers and drivers. In all games I watch there was one shot, one pass, one move that created an unstoppable play – the game changer. So what are the game changing moves for community pharmacy and the pharmacy profession? Which ones can be quick and simple to explain and which ones will take longer and perhaps need legislation.

I am thinking about them; I am talking about them. Are you?


One thought on “Pharmacy game changers

  1. One game changer will be when the community pharmacy contract is changed to include recognition of the professional service provided advising the public on managing short term conditions that can be self-managed. Separating community pharmacies and pharmacists from the dispensing function has its attraction, but it’s risky. If dispensing moves largely elsewhere there won’t be core, reasonably regular business and the role of the in store pharmacist would change. Advising on OTC sales and responding to symptoms is interesting but I’m not sure I would have remained a community pharmacist without also being involved in clinically overseeing the supply of prescription medicines etc.

    Community pharmacists are well placed to provide additional clinical services. But, that depends on the employers wanting to do it. And they need to be structured and integrated into the rest of primary care. Having them as part of the national commissioned service would be better in my view, but they would likely be commissioned locally by CCGs dependent on local needs. What we need to do is demonstrate that pharmacists are the professional of choice to deliver any services. What’s our unique selling point? Where’s the evidenced gap that we can fill?

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